I occasionally wonder how the growth of my sexual identity would have been different if I had been exposed to queer culture and characters sooner. Children who are sheltered from reality and taught to dehumanize the LGBTQ+ community often find their journey towards being comfortable with their sexuality or gender to be much more tedious.
The shockingly minimal amount of queer characters that I watched as a child were either cookie cutter stereotypes or bullied and shunned because of their identity. The result this can have on young audiences is extreme. The ideals and stereotypes that children develop by watching tend to be difficult to abandon later, possibly limiting them from healthy development. The key stages in a child’s cognitive growth are too often manipulated by heteronormativity, resulting in unavoidable bouts of denial, self-loathing, and confusion. This is why it’s so crucial for mainstream networks and programs geared towards young audiences to include representation.
Disney has recently been inserting more and more LGBTQ+ characters into their show. While the characters’ identities may not be as celebrated as blatantly as they should be, entertainment media is surely progressing. This week, a new LGBTQ+ character joined Disney’s “The Lodge,” a British musical drama sitcom.
it’s a small scene but disney channel confirmed that a main character is gay today and it’s just so important ? pic.twitter.com/DrohrW9imC
— jade (@joshsinclairs) June 23, 2017
Provided by Jade @joshsinclairs
In a heart to heart between the two bros, Josh comes out, “Girls aren’t really my type. I mean, I love them as friends obviously, but…” The scene is absent of the actual term “gay,” but the casualness almost makes it more effective because after all, it showed there are more ways to come out than just “I’m gay.” The other boy had no problem with it and their friendship remained unshaken. It didn’t present being gay as anything taboo or scary, simply another detail about that character. The acceptance that Josh is answered with has the ability to give other kids the bravery to be open with their identity. The media has developed a prototype for what an LGBTQ+ character is supposed to look like, linking homosexuality with (usually white) butch girls or effeminate boys, rarely venturing outside of those molds. Josh’s character wasn’t designed around his sexuality, and it clearly doesn’t define him, a perspective that expands the minds of children, on what a queer person can look or act like, rather creating a category that can apply to anyone.
Homophobia and bigotry are bred and learned; hatred is not inherent. The exposure that the new generation has to other identities will continue to lessen the existence of homophobia. Though the journey is slow, and society remains far from ideal, this development is encouraging to all whose childhoods were void of LGBTQ+ figures. Young boys and girls who have found themselves feeling isolated, and confused, are now provided with another character to relate to, and a fragment of reassurance that society can and will embrace them.